With the sighting of the new moon the Islamic new year is ushered in. The first month Muharram, is a month of great reward and virtue. Muharram itself means `sacred’ and is from those months which have been mentioned as sacred in the Holy Quraan.
“Four of them ( Zil-Qadah, Zil-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab) are sacred.”
From out of the four sacred months, Muharram has been blessed with certain specific virtues:-
“The best of fasts besides the month of Ramadhan is the fasting of Allah’s month of Muharram.”
In another Hadeeth, Hazrat Ibn Abbas (Radhiyallahu-Anhu) reports: “that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu-Alayhi-Wasallam) said: “The one that keeps a fast in the month of Muharram will receive the reward of thirty fasts for each fast (in this sacred month).”
Although the fasts of the month of Muharram are not obligatory, the one who fasts in these days out of his own will and choice is entitled to a great reward by Almighty Allah. The Hadith citied above signifies that the fasts of the month of Muharram are the most rewardable among the Nafl fasts i.e. the fasts one observes out of his own choice without being obligatory on him.
The Hadith does not mean that the reward promised for fasts of Muharram can only be attained by fasting for the whole month. On the contrary, each fast during this month has merit. Therefore, one should take advantage of this opportunity.
The Day of Aashora (10th Muharram)
According to the Holy companion, Ibn Abbas Radhiallaho Anhu, when the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam migrated to Madinah, he found that the Jews of Madinah used to fast on the 10 th day of Muharram. They said that it was the day on which the Holy Prophet Musa Alayhis Salaam and his followers crossed the Red Sea miraculously, and the Pharaoh was drowned in its water. On hearing this from the Jews, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam said, “We are more closely related to Musa than you.” So the Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam directed the Muslims to fast on the day of Ashura. (Abu Dawood)
According to another Hadith, it is more advisable that the fast of Ashura should be either preceeded or suceded by an additional fast. It means that one should fast two days: the 9 th and 10 th of Muharram or the 10 th and 11 th . The reason of this additional fast as mentioned by the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam is that the Jews used to fast on the day of Ashura alone, and the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alayhi Wassallam wanted to distinguish the Islmaic-way of fasting from that of the Jews. Therefore, he advised the Muslims to add another fast to the day of Ashura.
Some Ulama (scholars) are of the opinion that before the fasts of Ramadhan were made compulsory, the fast of the day of Aashora was compulsory upon the Ummah.
This is stated in a Hadeeth reported by Hazrat Aisha (Radhiyallahu-Anha):
“that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu-Alayhi-Wasallam) ordered the observance of the fast of Aashora. However, when the fast of Ramadhan became compulsory, then whosoever wished, kept this fast and whosoever desired did not observe this fast.”